Bil’s rating (out of 5): BBBB.5. USA, 1980. Paramount Pictures, Wildwood Enterprises. Screenplay by Alvin Sargent, based on the novel by Judith Guest. Cinematography by John Bailey. Produced by Ronald L. Schwary. Music by Marvin Hamlisch. Production Design by J. Michael Riva, Brook Simons. Costume Design by Bernie Pollack. Film Editing by Jeff Kanew. Academy Awards 1980. Golden Globe Awards 1980.
Casting against type is what’s best about this family drama, one of the first to start the 80s trend of sober films where people talk about their myriad of problems. Mary Tyler Moore is so good she’s scary as the hard-edge suburban mother who refuses to see the problems facing her and her family: her husband (Donald Sutherland) is slipping away from her emotionally and her younger son (Timothy Hutton in a great debut) can’t deal with the accidental death of his golden-boy older brother, so much that he has previously attempted suicide. Sutherland as the husband is so very great, finally allowed to play an open person with feelings (he’d perfected that cold-blooded unaffected hero thing in Klute and it seems to be haunting him to this day). Credit Moore, though, for pushing this film forward–her character’s self-denial makes you want to scream–and credit director Robert Redford for making sure every actor in the piece is so precise. Beautiful work from all, including a great supporting cast with Elizabeth McGovern (another great screen debut), Dinah Manoff and Judd Hirsch as a shrink whose scenes are a pre-cursor to Good Will Hunting.